Τετάρτη 29 Νοεμβρίου 2017

Ozzy Osbourne - Diary of a Madman

There are albums that we love and there are albums that are undeniable classics. Diary of a Madman is both.

by Andreas Andreou

Originally released on November 7th of 1981 with a recording line up of Ozzy Osbourne (vocals), Randy Rhoads (guitars), Bob Daisley (bass), Lee Kerslake (drums) and Max Norman as a producer. While it is rumoured that Johnny Cook and not Don Airey played keyboards, producer Max Norman has stated that keyboards were played "by Don and that big ass CS80". Louis Clark is responsible for the string arrangements on the epic title track. 

Back-to-back with Blizzard of Ozz, this second album is a band creation where all members deserve credits. However, no matter how iconic and classic this album is, back in the day it was recorded fast, without even completing or expanding the ideas they had, in the way they really wanted. Diary of a Madman was recorded and released very fast because the management wanted the band to go on tour very soon.

Before even the album was released, Rudy Sarzo (bass) and Tommy Aldridge (drums) took over the rhythm section for the upcoming tour and Daisley with Kerslake were out of the band. Both of them weren't very happy with the situation therein, they wanted this to be a "band", as it was promised, and not just supporting a solo artist. However, Kerslake's replacement was Ozzy's first choice even before the first album but he wasn't available at that time, while Bob Daisley was coming back again and again until No More Tears album.

Diary of a metal classic and beyond:

Over the Mountain: "Something in my vision, something deep inside". The album starts with a well known drum pattern that set a template for countless songs in the metal history. Actually, few years ago, Frankie Banali claimed that this is his intro from the early rehearsals of the band with Dana Strum on bass, and of course Ozzy and Randy, that took place in Los Angeles in late 1979. Randy Rhoads is mixing unique phrases and metal riffing with classical tradition from the opening track. Ozzy always had the charisma to locate pure talent and let his fate and ideas in their hands to expand them. He always had unknown guitarists that after his albums were considered iconic players, each in his time and beyond. Randy Rhoads already sounds like no other and in the years to come, many guitarists wanted to sound like him. 

Flying High Again: "People think I'm crazy but I'm in demand". Drugs was a huge part in Ozzy's life, especially in the '80s. Cheesy lyrics but this feelgood rocker was a fave live hit in the United States. It is rumored that the tour dwarf Ozzy had on stage was Kenny Baker, the actor who played R2D2 at the classic Star Wars films. Ozzy used to call him "Ronnie"...

You Can't Kill Rock And Roll: "King of a thousand knights, pawn in a table fight losing to you". Memorable and great vocal lines with amazingly guitar work and melodies. Lyrically, it is an idea of Ozzy against the attitude of record companies until that time, and Daisley filled the lyrics. However, from that point and on, Sharon gets in the picture and Ozzy was never treated bad again from the record industry. Most likely he had the upper hand and the final word.

Believer: "People beseech me but they'll never teach me things that I already know". Starting with a plain but memorable bass line, "Believer" is a song that brings in mind some of Black Sabbath's glory. It makes no sense to think of better singers. These songs and this album need this voice. I cannot think of anyone else (no matter how good he is) to sing this songs and justify them. These songs are meant to be for Ozzy and he is their soul.

Little Dolls: "The pins and needles prick the skin of little dolls". Side B also starts with a drum intro and this time with a tribal rhythm. Someone might say that the music of this track is to happy for those lyrics, and also this is one of those "not finally completed" songs, since it is rumoured that the Randy solo that is used was just a demo recording and not the final one.

Tonight: "Good intentions pave the way to hell, don't you worry when you hear me sing". Ozzy always had ballads in his albums and some of them are really great. Daisley fills with some notable bass lines and once again, Randy Rhoads spreads his magic.

S.A.T.O.: "Now I find peace of mind, finally found a way of thinking". For some people it stands for Sailing Across The Ocean but most likely it goes for Sharon Arden - Thelma Osbourne (Ozzy's ex-wife) with the change in Ozzy's personal life and in the next months, on July of 1982, Ozzy and Sharon were married. There are even progressive elements in this track, with a weird intro and unorthodox scales. There is great drumming and bass lines on the background and Randy shines here with his licks and performance.

Diary of a Madman: "Sanity now it's beyond me there's no choice". During this period, there are some of the most known incidents of Ozzy's madness; Alamo, doves and bat bite. It is a weird coincidence that all this madness happened at the period around Diary of a Madman, so either he is a madman indeed, or there is a very well stractured professional business plan. The song itself, is a masterpiece and the strings arrangment unique and ahead of its time. You can hear violin and cello in a heavy metal song, in 1981... Progressive metal bands like Psychotic Waltz (just ask them) are highly inspired by this song (and album) and the stracture and aura of this track can be founded in late-Savatage, and even in songs like Queensryche's "Suite Sister Mary".

Diary of a Madman is the last album of Randy Rhoads, that died in a plane accident on March 19th of 1982, while touring with Ozzy in the United States.

Κυριακή 29 Οκτωβρίου 2017

Caronte: Tales of Shamanic Doom.

Hailing from Italy, the Fenriz-approved Shamanic Doom band Caronte, returns with the new album 'YONI', just one year after "Codex Babalon" EP.

Speaking of the previous offering ('Codex Babalon'), singer Dorian says "it is mainly focused on the woman figure and on her power generating; contains also a lot of magical/sexual notions", to continue, "I think is a very powerfull record, in terms of energies, people who listened 'Codex Babalon' can confirm this. For sure is the most obscure work and with more occult elements we made".

The men behind Caronte are Dorian Bones (vocals), Tony Bones (guitars), Henry Bones (bass) and Mike De Chirico (drums).

How the cult started? Back at the end of 2010 they spent a lot of nights talking and trying to give birth an obscure smoky project which may have the same atmosphere of a ritual. Dorian confirms that "magic, sexuality, drugs were all themes we wanted to touch in our musical project. In particular, I was following a course of studies who brought me to write the lyrics and define the influence and the energy that nowadays we bring with us. From 2010 we released two EP, three albums and a split with the mighty italian doom metal band Doomraiser". 

Your lyrics sound very imporant and the music is indeed a mirror for them. Which are your influences on both lyrics and music?

Dorian: Regarding the lyrics, I have to mention the master Therion Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, Helena Blavadsky, Eliphas Levi and a lot of books on the Shamanism in South America and in the East. Often our lyrics are prayers, tales and chants that describe myths and rituals where we found all the energies that we bring in our project
Regarding music I can say Danzig, Coven, Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard, Candlemass and Cathedral.

You are not what we could exact call "Doom Metal", so how would you describe your music to someone that haven't heard you?

Dorian: I think that Shamanic Doom is the nearest definition some careful voices gave us. We feel very near as friendships and audience to the black metal scene (the most esoteric part) and the rest of extreme scene. I really don't like when people say stoner, I don’t feel part of that kind of message.

How would you describe the present doom, stoner, occult scene, which bands do you distinguish nowadays?

Dorian: Lately I think we really have a dynamic and prolific scene. Regarding the doom scene I say Cough, Windhand, Urfaust, Saturnalia Temple, Abysmal Grief, Doomraiser.  Stoner, I don't know... About Occult, I think of Acherontas, Behexen, Fides Inversa, Arktau Eos, Lapis Niger, Satanismo Calibro 9.

The latest Caronte album 'YONI' is out now on Van Records, and currently Caronte is on tour supporting the album.

Caronte discography:

Ghost Owl EP (2011)
Ascension (2012)
Doomraiser / Caronte Split (2013)
Church Of Shamanic Goetia  (2014)
Codex Babalon EP (2016)
YONI (2017)

Join Caronte on Facebook HERE.

Love is the Law. Love Under Will.

Δευτέρα 23 Οκτωβρίου 2017

Martin Eric Ain - A rebel life in darkness, art and glamor.

From the ashes of Hellhammer, Celtic Frost was risen. Tom G. Warrior and Martin Eric Ain were the leading force that inspired the extreme metal scene in the years to come.

"Morbid Tales" (1984), "Emperor's Return" (1985) and "To Mega Therion" (1985) are the foundations of extreme metal, and "Into The Pandemonium (1987) is a genre-breaking record that introduced us the term "avant-garde" in metal music. An experimental dark album with undeniable influence. This influence was both musical, artistic and visual. 

Martin Eric Ain was separated from Celtic Frost during the recordings of "To Mega Therion" but returned very quickly and even if Tom Warrior was the prime composer, Martin was the link that completed the gaze into the darkness with his contributions in lyrics, music and image.

"Cold Lake" (1988) was an abomination, Martin Eric Ain wasn't there and Tom G. Warrior doesn't want to listen to this record again. "Vanity / Nemesis" (1990) marks the return of Martin Ain and after few years, there was silence. But during this silence, the impact of Celtic Frost in metal music was growing over and over...

While Tom G. Warrior is death-obsessed in general, Martin Eric Ain was deep in the art of darkness and while they seemed to share a common morbid vision behind Celtic Frost, they probably had a different approach and social sense. Celtic Frost was Tom Warrior's life's work and there is no doubt about it. But Martin was the nocturnal factor that added another (and yet so similar) dark artistic element to the band.

In late 2001, Tom Warrior and Martin Ain began to write music together again, along with Erol Unala on guitar and, from late 2002, drummer Franco Sesa joined them. The album was completed in the end of 2005, the title is "Monotheist" and Celtic Frost dominate the metal press and festivals for almost two years.

Few months prior to the release of "Monotheist" in 2006, Martin Eric Ain visited the offices of the label and unfurled full-color printouts of the complete layout, including final artwork for everything (both CD and vinyl) and provided detailed explanations about all symbolism, meaning and importance of what he presented. At this time and after the years of Noise Records and the problems and artistic limitations they had, now they knew exactly what they wanted and everything was done under their control.

But what happened after "Monotheist"? According to Tom Warrior, Martin was a different person now. As he states in an interview at Iron Fist magazine (issue 10) "We just try not to meet. Martin lives to a different planet to the rest of us. He runs an empire of clubs and bars in Zurich, and we're not talking about metal clubs - he runs the hipster clubs. Martin is a millionaire and that's his world now". When they reformed Celtic Frost, Martin had already the basis of his empire and he admired Tom for sticking with the music, so he wanted to be a part of this but after a hundred plus shows he was sick and tired of touring when he already had this kind of life back in Zurich. But besides this glamorous life, Martin was always in the art of darkness. "I was at an opening of an exhibition in Zurich and I knew he [Martin] was going to be there and I went right up to him and I offered my hand, we hugged, we talked, we had a really good time but we're no longer the same as we were in 1983", Tom states.

"Monotheist" is the best metal reunion album. In my book it is also the best Celtic Frost album but I know that you won't agree with me.

From Hellhammer to Celtic Frost, Martin Eric Ain was an iconic important part of extreme dark music. 

Martin Eric Ain (born Martin Stricker, on July 18th of 1967) died on October 21st of 2017 by heart attack.

"I am deeply affected by his passing. Our relationship was very complex and definitely not free of conflicts, but Martin's life and mine were very closely intertwined, since we first met in 1982." - Tom Gabriel Fischer (October 22, 2017)

Only Death Is Real.

Κυριακή 1 Οκτωβρίου 2017

Ozzy Osbourne - No Rest For The Wicked

Listening and celebrating the heavier Ozzy solo album, originally released on September 28th of 1988. Let's remember...

by Andreas Andreou

After two great albums with Jake E. Lee on guitars, that were both of them more commercially successful (at that time, not now) than Ozzy's first two albums with Randy Rhoads, Ozzy parted ways with Lee by mid-1987. After being fired from Ozzy, Lee formed Badlands with singer Ray Gillen, but after that, he didn't do much and will mainly remembered as "one of Ozzy's great guitarists". But unquestionably, he was the perfect guitarist for Ozzy during mid-80s and a significant part of Ozzy's success.

Zakk Wylde (21 years old at that time) was Ozzy's new guitarist, and until today, his longest solo band member. According to Ozzy, Wylde is a great character, he works easily with him and he can play almost everything. After a while, Ronnie James Dio also got a young guitarist (Rowan Robertson, 17 at that time) and released the album Lock Up The Wolves (1990) but that was a much inferior album than No Rest For The Wicked and another small victory to the supposed old conflict between Ozzy and Dio, and even if Robertson wrote a big part of the album along with Dio, he was forgotten. On the other hand, and after many albums with Black Label Society and other solo works, nowadays, Zakk Wylde is considered a very successful guitarist.

With a recording line up including also Bob Daisley (bass), Randy Castillo (drums) and John Sinclair (keyboards), the band entered studio with producer Roy Thomas Baker but Ozzy was not satisfied because Baker coudn't understand his ideas and both parties continuing to disagree. After a while, Keith Olsen was brought in to continue and complete the album, but even after that, there is still something "strange" with the total result, especially the drum sound. However, this is the sound we learned and loved on this album. 

More powerful (not better) than The Ultimate Sin, No Rest For The Wicked is a goldmine of riffs and the most riff-driven solo album Ozzy ever recorded. Actually, this is the closest album to the Black Sabbath legacy and the heavy riffing has lot to do with this; just check songs like "Bloodbath In Paradise" and "Breaking All The Rules". Some different highlights include the epic "Fire In The Sky" with its great arrangment, and "Hero", a semi bonus track. Speaking of bonus tracks, there is also another song from these sessions, "The Liar"; a song that could fit in Savatage's Gutter Ballet, recorded before Gutter Ballet. All the demons of Ozzy's mind are present here and on the "Demon Alcohol" Ozzy speaks for his addiction bringing echoes of the past singing "Don't speak of suicide solutions, you took my hand, I'm here to stay".

However, these demons dominated Ozzy those years.  As usual, Daisley was gone / let gone after the recordings (just to return and leave again for one last time later) and Geezer Butler entered the band for the tour. The tour was successful and a mini live EP followed (Just Say Ozzy) along with a dark period for Ozzy. In August 1989, Ozzy returned home drunk after performing (ironically) at the peace festival in Moscow and announced to his wife and manager, Sharon, "I’ve decided you have to go" before trying to strangle her. Sharon didn't press charges and after that, Ozzy spends three months in rehab. Two years later, he returns sober with his most commercially successful album at that time, introducing him to a new generation of fans.

Tracklist: 1. Miracle Man, 2. Devil's Daughter (Holy War), 3. Crazy Babies, 4. Breaking All The Rules, 5. Bloodbath In Paradise, 6. Fire In The Sky, 7. Tattooed Dancer, 8. Demon Alcohol, 9. Hero

Τετάρτη 27 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

Savatage - Hall of the Mountain King

There are moments when some artists reach bottom (artistic or commercial) or they just were misguided to the "wrong" direction from labels-managers-executives. In a few occasions, some artists return in full glory. Hall of the Mountain King, originally released exactly 30 years ago, on September 28th of 1987, is the perfect example. Let's remember...

by Andreas Andreou
(with a contribution - epilogue by Johnny Lee Middleton)

Atlantic Records signed Savatage in 1984 and the band had already released Sirens (1983) and The Dungeons Are Calling (1984), that were both recorded at the same session. Power of the Night (1985) was the first major-label album and one year later, Fight for the Rock was the release that nearly killed the band. A wrong album for a wrong band. It is not bad, but it is wrong. Forward after the release and the tour; Enter Paul O'Neill.

The band almost broke up and thought the end is near. Paul O'Neill is the "x-factor" that took them by the hand and lead them to a brighter future. He encouraged Criss and Jon Oliva to start writing new material and so they did. This time, the band composed without any label or management interference and once the material was ready, Savatage entered studio and completed the album with Paul O'Neill. As Johnny Lee Middleton has said, "
Never give up on what you believe in and do not be afraid to struggle and suffer through the tough times because quitters never win and winners never quit". 

Besides production, O'Neill gets some credits on songs, too. Later, he will take care of all lyrics also, giving to the band an extra maturity, but from this time and on, he is the only one that will guide the band and he also became a key piece of the Savatage songwriting formula.

While Jon Oliva is inspired and loves The Beatles, Black Sabbath and Ozzy in general, Criss Oliva is mainly inspired by the songwriting of the first two Ozzy albums and Randy Rhoads, and that's very clear to the first songs the brothers composed and recorded in their early years, and how those songs evolved after 1983. Jon has stated that "There's no one heavier than Sabbath; they have surprise songs and different arrangements that you don't expect". For him, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is one of the greatest albums ever. While recording Gutter Ballet, Paul O'Neill said "I have way more classical and Broadway influences; Jon, on the other hand, has more Beatles influence. But we're both influenced by Black Sabbath". This is one of the main reasons why Savatage sound so different from most of the US metal bands. While most of those bands are influenced by Iron Maiden (and Queensryche), you can barely listen to any Iron Maiden influence on Savatage... If you will add the uniqueness of both Oliva brothers and the later addition of O'Neill, you have Savatage.

[There are many trivia and connections between Savatage and Black Sabbath-Ozzy, but this needs to be another chapter in the play. If I will find some time, I might come with something in the future.]

During 1988, with a major label supporting the band, Hall of the Mountain King had become Savatage's best-selling album and a world tour followed, including support shows with Megadeth and Dio. At that point and after O'Neill's suggestion, Savatage added a second guitar for the live shows to keep the rhythm playing during Criss' leads. Criss had a few thoughts about it in the beginning but in the end, they did it and Chris Caffery stepped in. The tour started with power and success despite being the opening act. Dave Mustaine even thought about the possibility of Criss Oliva joining Megadeth according to Sava-sources. However, Jon Oliva went a "little too far" during that tour, living the "rock n' roll life" just like one of his idols, Ozzy Osbourne and it took no long until he entered a chemical rehabilitation program. This situation stopped the band since they had to cancel a scheduled tour, including the European dates. The future was different for the band and it took them a few more years for a big commercial success, under a different line-up...

Hall of the Mountain King is one of the best metal albums ever, from one of the greatest metal bands ever. An ageless masterpiece with top notch musicianship. Raw, insane, solid and emotional at the same time. Two music video clips were shot, one for "Hall of the Mountain King" and one for "24 Hrs. Ago" with the same titled track getting a lot of airplay at Headbanger's Ball TV show, something that was very important at the pre-internet era and helped the sales and band's exposure.
There is one special guest at that album, singer Ray Gillen, brought in by Paul O'Neill who was his manager at the time because he needed another kind of voice and harmony to serve as an instrument in the chorus of "Strange Wings". That was one of the first recordings of Gillen who previously had performed even punk rock before entering the hard rock and metal scene. During that period, Ray Gillen had replaced Glenn Hughes in Black Sabbath and recorded vocals for The Eternal Idol album, before they were also replaced by Tony Martin's voice in the final release. Paul O'Neill produced (and helped write) the debut album of Badlands, fronted by Ray Gillen with ex-Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Jake E. Lee but also Eric Singer who among others also performed with Black Sabbath. Bob Kinkel, a keyboardist and music engineer, a regular partner of Paul O'Neill, also helped in the debut album of Badlands that was released in 1989 but most important, he was introduced to Savatage during the recordings of Hall of the Mountain King with additional keyboards. Kinkel will be a key person in the following years of Savatage and the formation of Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Criss Oliva is probably one of the best guitarists in metal music, with a unique and recognizable sound, unmatchable tone and feeling, and personally, I always had him in my Top-5 list. But I have to add, that Jon Oliva is also one of the most unique and emotional singers out there. I love his voice and his performance, and I don't understand why he is not mentioned among the greatest ones.

When I posted this synopsis on my personal facebook account, Johnny Lee Middleton came up to my post with this amazing text about the writing and recordings of Hall of the Mountain King:

"We wrote the songs for this album in a warehouse area of a strip mall on US 19 in Palm Harbor, FL. It was a storage area for a company called Cage Maid that sold plastic bird mess catchers that were placed under a bird cage. The guy who rented the place named Reggie was a friend of the band and he let us use his storage area for free. We could only work at night when the businesses in the strip mall were closed but we had a small monitor/PA system and all night to work on songs. We never invited anyone to rehearsals as we had work to do and did not want to perform for friends. After we had a bunch of songs in the can Paul came down and we got into the final arrangement mode and tightening things up. After a few weeks of working with Paul we were ready for the studio to record this. We flew to NYC and went to work at the legendary Record Plant Studio. All of us stayed in a 2 bed seedy and smelly hotel room I think was called the Times Square Motor Lodge. We took turns sleeping on a bed or floor, lived on Peanut butter and jelly as well as Rays pizza and soup. I think I made $25.00 a day and that was barely enough to survive in NYC but we made it work and did not complain as this is what we believed in and we wanted it to be a record that was ours and something to be proud of. I was born and raised in Florida and living in the Hells Kitchen area of NYC in the mid eighties was nothing like the beach where I grew up and to say I was scared would be an understatement. 16 hour days and sleeping on a floor were the norm in our world and many times I slept in the vocal booth of the studio because I was afraid to go to the hotel at 4 AM. As the recording process progressed our relationship with Paul grew stronger and we finally felt we had a leader and a friend that believed in us. It was a tough time in our lives and we sacrificed everything to make this record and with the grace of God and a bit of luck we got something we could believe in. Never give up on what you believe in and do not be afraid to struggle and suffer through the tough times because quitters never win and winners never quit".

Madness Reigns.

Tracklist: 1. 24 Hours Ago, 2. Beyond the Doors of the Dark, 3. Legions, 4. Strane Wings, 5. Prelude to Madness, 6. Hall of the Mountain King, 7. The Price You Pay. 8. White Witch, 9. Last Dawn.

Savatage: Jon Oliva (lead vocals, piano), Criss Oliva (guitars), Johnny Lee Middleton (bass guitar), Steve Wacholz (drums).

Additional musicians: Robert Kinkel (keyboards), Ray Gillen (backing vocals).

Produced by Paul O'Neill.

Album cover by Gary Smith.

During the Hall of the Mountain King sessions, one more song was recorded, titled "This Is Where You Should Be" that didn't make it to the album but it was available in the From the Gutter to the Stage best-of collection. That song, was a power ballad, like many of those Savatage recorded in the later years.

Κυριακή 17 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

Ozzy Osbourne - No More Tears

On this day (September 17th of 1991) "No More Tears", Ozzy Osbourne's sixth studio album was released.

With a recording line-up of Ozzy, Zakk Wylde (guitars), Bob Daisley (bass), Randy Castillo (drums) and John Sinclair (keyboards), "No More Tears" is one of Ozzy's favorite albums and it also marks a new era free of heavy alcohol and drugs use. While the '80s had been a turmoil for Ozzy, there are no weird myths or drama behind this album.

Song writting and recording sessions were very easy for this one. It was produced by Duane Baron and John Purdell, Ozzy was sober and Zakk Wylde came up with some great ideas. Daisley had some lyrics but finally they weren't used and at this point, long-time Ozzy's friend, Lemmy (Motorhead), came up with lyrics and ideas for some songs. Ten songs were recorded for the album and while Ozzy was auditioning the tracks, Mike Inez came up with a random bass line (Daisley recorded the album but he wasn't part of the band). Ozzy's magic ear heard that line and they built one more song around it. This one was "No More Tears"... so they entered studio again, recorded one more song, the album got a title and the world got another classic hit.

The following tour was named "No More Tours" and it was supposed to be the last huge Ozzy tour according to the management, but Ozzy himself had serious doubts about it later. Even during the tour, he was mentioning to the audience that he won't stop. And he didn't.

At this time, Ozzy's fame surpassed by far Black Sabbath and he is established as the most successful solo artist in metal music. It will take few more years for Sabbath to be recognized by all (especially with their influence in the '90s and other genres besides metal, like grunge and stoner) even if their impact in metal music was already undeniable. In the early '90s, three albums, by Metallica (Black Album), Ozzy (No More Tears) and Queensryche (Empire) were by far the most successful heavy metal releases in the United States, and these specific albums gain multi-platinum status with millions of sales, keeping some of the highest positions, even until today. Keep in mind that bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest didn't have any album reaching these sales in the States.

No More Tears stood the test of time. Even if upon its release it wasn't received very well by few Ozz die-hard fans in Europe. This album gave to Ozzy's career a new big burst and introduced him to a new generation of fans (mainly in the United States). However, the angel wings on the cover marks another a change from the past... Ozzy is no more the "prince of darkness" and even if there is a strong metal edge in No More Tears, the '80s sound started to fade over the next years.

Track list:  1. Mr. Tinkertrain, 2. I Don't Want To Change The World, 3. Mama, I'm Coming Home, 4. Desire, 5. No More Tears, 6. S.I.N., 7. Hellraiser, 8. Time After Time, 9. Zombie Stomp, 10. A.V.H., 11. Road To Nowhere

Τρίτη 12 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Ozz

Ozzy Osbourne's first solo album, Blizzard of Ozz, was released on September 20th of 1980. Let's remember...

Black Sabbath no more. Ozzy is on the edge of the abyss. 1979. Enter Sharon. A blizzard is coming.

Blizzard of Ozz is a monumental release for heavy metal music and one of the albums that inspired what we love in metal during the glorious '80s. Let's agree on that. This wouldn't be possible without the proper team that included phenomenal guitarist Randy Rhoads, bass player and lyricist Bob Daisley, drummer Lee Kerslake and Don Airey on keyboards. The album was recorded between March to April of 1980, it was produced by the band and engineered by Max Norman. Most likely it was produced by Max Norman but he wasn't the one who started to work on the album from the beginning... However we will speak soon for his complete work at next Ozz albums where he takes full credits.

Now, keep in mind that we are still in 1980, when Iron Maiden and Angel Witch just had their debut albums released, Saxon just started riding on wheels of steel, NWoBHM was all over with countless new bands (some great, some average, most of them with few songs and lot of rock attitude and sound), Motorhead were doing their thing, and just a handful of groups were trying to play heavy metal with the "SOUND" it is meant to be and not with just some distortion or just few (actual) metal songs in hard rock or rock-driven albums. In fact, two other albums that were the bridge from '70s to the '80s metal sound were also released in 1980, and defined-unlocked the "SOUND". These are Heaven and Hell and British Steel. Of course, Judas Priest was already the second greatest metal pioneer (after Black Sabbath) with their '70s metal albums but the production of Tom Allom in British Steel and Martin Birch in Heaven and Hell is the turning point for what followed. From that year and on , heavy metal already had the "SOUND" and the structure. It wasn't "hard-rock-ish", "rock-driven" or "proto-metal" (funny term of the last years, if you want my opinion), or whatever; it is pure Heavy Metal now, in all terms, and that is more than obvious in the '80s, despite that thunder during February the 13th of 1970. There was heavy metal in the '70s of course, but from 1980 and on, there is a real explosion and Blizzard of Ozz is among the albums that settled the template for '80s heavy metal.

Back in Blizzard of Ozz. Its production is not such a defining moment as the two albums mentioned above, but there are some monumental songs in this album; no doubt about it. There are parts that inspired a generation of metal fans, among them musicians that created bands and albums we love. Ozzy, Randy and Daisley were putting most of the music together. Usually Ozzy had a song title, some lines and a vocal melody. He was singing the vocal melody with random words, Randy came up with most of music and Daisley with the majority of the lyrics and some music, with most of the songs completed by the end of 1979 - early 1980. None of those songs was laid on paper or partitures and they were created on jamming and countless rehearsals, by ear and mutual approval.

Randy Rhoads was free to play and compose on classical scales and arrangements. Since 1979 you could hear "this" in some hard rock guitar players and songs but he was probably the first heavy metal artist using classical phrasing. Guitarists like Blackmore, Schenker and Van Halen were a revelation for countless young musicians, but now we are in 1980 and a 100% heavy metal album sets new standards. Also, according to Ozzy, "one day Randy came to me and said that most heavy metal songs are written in an A to E chord structure. Randy said, 'let's try to change that', so we made a rule that almost every number that we recorded on an album was never played in the same key". Just imagine how things would evolve if Randy was still with us. Most likely he would surpass guitarists that are now considered "greatest". 

Ozzy still gives the greatest credit to Randy and he always remembers him. According to Ozzy, Randy was the first one that gave him time and had the patience and time to hear his ideas and work with them. Randy Rhoads (who surprisingly didn't like Black Sabbath) admired guitarists like Leslie West (Mountain), Glen Buxton (Alice Cooper Band) and Jeff Beck, and he was a fan of David Bowie's music, but his playing was mainly a result of classical study; a unique revelation that inspired many guitarists like James Murphy, Joey Tafolla, Criss Oliva and Phillip Sandoval, just to name few, besides the indirect inspiration to countless more.

However, Ozzy's first choice for his solo band was Gary Moore, but this didn't happen because Gary wanted to start his own band. According to the Randy Rhoads audition story, Randy was tuning up, doing some arpeggios and Ozzy stopped him and said, "you got the job". Of course this is a lovely myth (or half of the truth, if you prefer) and a couple of days later, Ozzy auditioned Randy again because he wanted to make sure that it would all work out in a band situation. Frankie Banali played drums and Dana Strum was the bass player in those early auditions that took place in Los Angeles. When Ozzy returned to UK, the label and management (Jet Records and Don Arden) wanted to keep Ozzy's new band all British, so Bob Daisley entered the band and finally they accepted Randy because Ozzy wanted him without any further discussion.

At a time when bands and musicians saw for first time the cover of the album and the layout only upon its release, when Blizzard of Ozz hit the stores, Daisley and Kerslake weren't very happy because they were "promised" that this would be a band and they wouldn't just support a solo artist.

The first song written for Blizzard of Ozz was "Goodbye to Romance", a farewell to Black Sabbath and a commitment to the future, with Ozzy writing and singing "I've been the king, I've been the clown, still broken wings can't hold me down, I'm free again". "Mr. Crowley" is a neo-classical heavy metal piece of art in the true essence of this description, before the term "neo-classical" start to appear in metal music. "Revelation (Mother Earth)" is a milestone of lyrical heavy metal before the term "lyrical" accompany the music of some beloved underground US metal acts in the years to come. No need to mention the heartbreaking performance of Ozzy in this song...

1980. Heavy metal is already here. Complete as we know it. In form, stracture and sound, stronger than ever before. The doors are opened.

Blizzard of Ozz is a true groundbreaking album that has sold over 6,000,000 copies worldwide and has been certified 4 times Platinum in the United States, with sales keep going on.

Track list: 1. I Don't Know, 2. Crazy Train, 3. Goodbye To Romance, 4. Dee, 5. Suicide Solution, 6. Mr. Crowley, 7. No Bone Movies, 8 Revelation (Mother Earth), 9. Steal Away (The Night)

Κυριακή 11 Ιουνίου 2017

Up The Hammers Festival 2017: The Might of Chaos Descends

Now the dust has settled. The might of Chaos was unleashed upon the (decadent since ages)  cradle of civilization, on May 27th, of 2017. 

Up The Hammers festival (Athens, Greece) started from small basements, growing every year with hard work from the right people and associates, and on its XII edition, it moved to the best venue of its history. On May 26th and 27th, the 2-days underground metal festival took place at Gagarin 205 club with a line-up that was mainly dominated by the headline acts of Ross The Boss (performing Manowar) and Cirith Ungol. The strong support of metalheads around the world over the last years, helped Up The Hammers to move to the next logical step, that is a bigger venue. That wouldn't happen without the support of the metal hordes and friends coming from Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Sweden, Norway, even United States or Australia and many many more places... Manolis Karazeris (promoter of the festival, along with Dimitris Papanastasiou of Music Box Prod.) thinking most of the times as a fan, had the right thoughts and ideas about the line-up of the festival, depending on its budget, and managed to establish it as one of the best underground metal festivals of our times, that was expanded with the support of the fans.

This year's edition was dominated by the performance of Cirith Ungol, one of the last two and most wanted reunions in traditional heavy metal; the other one is Heavy Load. Behind the Cirith Ungol reunion lies a fairytale gone right. Many people tried over the years, but finally it happened thanks to few individuals with most notable Jarvis Leatherby (founder of Night Demon and promoter of Frost And Fire festival), and of course the will of the band members. Cirith Ungol is hailed as an underground metal band and not a famous, maistream or established act, but I have to say that this specific reunion is one of the most professional and successful ever happened. Everything was organized slowly, correct and beyond our wildest dreams. The present line-up includes all the right members, with both Greg Lindstrom (he played guitar on the first CU album "Frost And Fire") and Jim Barraza (he played guitar on the last CU album "Paradise Lost"), since Jerry Fogle (guitar on first three albums) left this mortal world one August day of 1998. Tim Baker (vocals) and Robert Garven (drums) are of course here, and Jarvis Leatherby handles bass duties, since Flint isn't part of this reunion. Jarvis is also the manager of the band and another crucial thing is that Metal Blade Records (the best metal label in my book) is supporting Cirith Ungol with great reissues of their albums, among other things. Important label stuff are also supporting the band in person, and travelling in the Cirith Ungol shows, promoting and helping them. If we will add that at this period of time "old" metal is somehow back in the rails, this was the perfect timing for such a reunion. Traditional metal is not mainstream in terms of older times, but for sure it has more exposure in magazines (the ones left), many small festivals appear here and there, countless reunions of old bands (even ones with just an album) happen, and I can't even mention the hundreds reissues... And all these in a period where the music industry is a living dead entity, but still, things happen despite the low physical sales and the minimal support and of the younger generation, if we will compare them with the years that all these bands were active. On the other hand, when these bands were active back in the 80s, most of them were really underground and nowadays they play to wider audience. So this reunion really matters and deserves every success, and a new album is probably scheduled somewhere at the end of 2018.

When Cirith Ungol walked the stage, on their third show after the reunion, everything we saw before was forgotten and the might of Chaos was unleashed upon us. Each band member performed with passion and it was obvious that they had many rehearsals before. The Cirith Ungol music is not 100% the best festival soundtrack, but it was exactly what the people of Up The Hammers wanted to hear. This was one of the best shows in the history of Up The Hammers festival.

The night before, Ross The Boss with a killer line-up including Rhino (ex-Manowar, Burning Starr) on drums, Mike LePond (Symphony X, Heathen's Rage, Silent Assassins) on bass and Marc Lopez (ex-Meliah Rage) on vocals, performed a special Manowar setlist with songs from his Manowar-era. You cannot fail when you play eternal hymns like "Thor" or "Blood Of My Enemies". These songs are so powerfull and unique, and this was a great festival addition, with guaranteed satisfaction for this specific crowd. I cannot even imagine what would happened if we would witness the real deal in this venue...

The only disadvantage of this festival, is that these two performances - names were by far superior than anything else we saw. There were more great acts and shows, but there was a significant difference between the headliners and the rest billing of the festival. Night Demon were amazing, though. These guys live and breath metal, and their shows are always full of energy. Probably one of the three or five best bands of the so called "new wave of traditional heavy metal". Other new bands should watch them and learn how to "work". When you play countless shows over the world and already have 2 great full-length albums in a period of three years, you are doing something right. 

Attacker was another cool addition and this kind of US metal is needed in these festivals. Especially when the band members perform with passion, and you have songs like "(Call On) The Attacker"! US metal was represented also by Thrust who tried to kill the posers, Tyrant who killed our ears, and Resistance who was indeed a Metal Machine.

Myhtra was the surprise of the festival. It is always great to see some old bands performing with the passion of their youth. That was great, and also a NWOBHM band is always needed in this kind of festival. Lord Vigo from Germany was the second big surprise of the festival. Their paranormal doom metal was performed flawless and their stage performance was also special. Monasterium was the other doom metal band of the festival, and the Polish act was closer to the traditional epic doom style of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus, but both bands played in front of few people as opening acts of both days. Blizzen were just ok in their traditional metal style and Holy Martyr was a perfect addition even if I believe that the doom elements on their new album don't fit in the character of the band. However, none of us can tell to a musician how to play and I really enjoyed their "classic" tunes. Diviner and InnerWish were the Greek bands of the festival and both of them were professionals. Lot of people enjoyed their shows, some "old-school" metalheads didn't enjoy so much Diviner and many others would prefer a better setlist from InnerWish, since they supported mainly their last album. Fans from Greece are already familiar with them and have their opinion, but I am sure they gained some fans from abroad, even if they were different from the "true underground metal" character that few individuals have for a festival like Up The Hammers. At this point, with bands like InnerWish, I will have to mention that the sound was also very good at the venue. 

Top - 10 artists of UTH:

10. Vince High: A performer with a  complete NWOBHM feeling.

9. Rhino: The triumph of steel. A metal machine.

8. Bobby Lucas: The leather lungs of US metal.

7. Ross The Boss: THAT guitar tune!

6. Mike LePond: A true unsung legendary musician.

5. Greg Lindstrom: The silent force (aka: the man who wrote "Frost And Fire")

4. Robert Garven: The atom smasher. The master of the pit.

3. Jarvis Leatherby: The demon of the stage.

2. Tim Baker: The voice of Chaos.

1. Jim Barraza: A true guitar master. An Idol.

The first bands of Up The Hammers 2018 are already announced and tickets are already on sale. You can reserve your ticket HERE and trust me, this will be something you don't want to miss.

Τετάρτη 22 Μαρτίου 2017

HEAVY LOAD Back Catalog To Be Reissued; More Things To Come


No Remorse Records and Gabriel Management are immensely proud to present something on many Heavy Metal fans wish list: the most exciting series of re-issues of the decade.

They are widely held as the band that started the whole Swedish Heavy Metal wave with their first album in 1978. In addition, they are regarded as the first Viking Metal band in the world. HEAVY LOAD, a name that electrifies fans around the globe. A band - a name that never ceased to reverberate and fascinate. In fact, a list of the bands that officially admit that they were influenced or inspired by this mythical Swedish act could turn out to be endless. 


Due to the  famous flood that  devastated Thunderload Studios back in 2001 (one meter of water for five hours), the HEAVY LOAD tapes had been evacuated, scattered, misplaced and believed to be damaged beyond repair. After arduous efforts trying to find and restore the tapes, the band´s founding members Ragne and Styrbjörn Wahlquist discovered that the recordings could be re-mastered.

These legendary albums have been out of print since the eighties. Bootlegs with poor sound quality have been abundant, and they are continuously selling in increasing numbers to new audiences around the world. In fact, no licensed CDs have ever been made (despite their often legal appearances) except for the rare Japanese releases from the Eighties. But, for ages, fans, journalists, musicians influenced by the band, as well as people of the music industry have tried to persuade Ragne and Styrbjörn to reissue their original recordings on both CD and vinyl LP. And now, at last, they will.


In order to guarantee the best sound quality, the reissued LPs and CDs will be remastered directly from the original analogue tapes. This will be done by Ragne and Styrbjörn themselves at Atlantis Grammofon in Stockholm – one of the few studios that still have the capacity to handle recordings the old analogue way. Now, finally, you will be able to hear the albums the way they were meant to be.

These official reissues will be expanded with bonus tracks. Some of these tracks have never been heard by the public before – demos and songs recorded for the albums which had to be dropped due to the limited playing time on LPs. The reissues will be available both as CDs (in deluxe digipak packages) and vinyl LPs (in gatefold covers). Both the CDs and the LPs will have the same bonus tracks. The CD covers will be coupled with great booklets, designed by the Wahlquist brothers themselves. Both the CD and the LP booklets will feature previously unpublished photos, as well as stories about how the songs came about.


HEAVY LOAD was founded in 1975 by two brothers: Ragne Wahlquist (vocals, keyboards and guitar) and Styrbjörn Wahlquist (vocals and drums). In 1978 HEAVY LOAD released their first album "Full Speed at High Level" - during an era when the Swedish media and record industry claimed that Hard Rock was dead and that the band was doomed to fail. The Wahlquist brothers’ vision has always been the core of what HEAVY LOAD was all about. So after expanding the band with a second guitarist, they founded their own recording facility, the famous Thunderload Studios, along with their own label, Thunderload Records. On their own label, they released timeless classics such as "Metal Conquest" (1981), "Death Or Glory" (1982) and "Stronger Than Evil" (1983) by HEAVY LOAD.


At last, due to an epic pact between the band and No Remorse Records, the back catalogue will be made available again. This series of ultimate reissues will start in the early Summer of 2017, with their last album "Stronger Than Evil" and continue back through their production.

But that’s not all of it. Far from it! As 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of their debut album, HEAVY LOAD prepares something special. Something special to DEFY THE POWERS OF THE DARK SEA.

HEAVY LOAD Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/heavyloadofficial
NO REMORSE RECORDS: www.noremorse.gr
GABRIEL MANAGEMENT: www.gabrielmanagement.eu

Παρασκευή 6 Ιανουαρίου 2017

The metal albums we enjoyed most in 2016

2016 was a great year for metal music. When you are working in music industry and being part of a record label, store, magazine and website, you are associated with musicians, labels, promoters and editors daily, so metal besides of music, is your reality. One more year, I had the opportunity to listen to many new albums, but still, no one can say that listened everything. Everyone who claims that, is wrong. Also, you need to check the physical format to have the complete experience of an album, and not just have a quick listen on social networks, downloads or whatever. There are also the unlucky ones (the albums that released during December) that haven't got all the proper attention, since a few plays are not enough.

Below you will find (for start) 10 albums that I enjoyed most in 2016, and some of them (like 'The Eternalist') will follow me for the years to come, as pure classics.

1. AGATUS - The Eternalist
14 years have passed since the last Agatus album ('The Weaving Fates', 2002) but this long wait worth’s every single day, because with this release we witness history in the making. 'The Eternalist' is a genre-breaking album that captures the soul and passion of metal music through the visionary mind of its creator, Eskarth The Dark One. The Dark is without doubt a pure artist, a multi-instrumentalist, a creator with original ideas and vision. With the precious help and creative input of Vorskaath (Zemial), The Dark is offering to the metal universe an artistic creation that combines elements like the passion of Bathory, Warlord and ’70s-inspired prog melodies (in the vein of Eloy); epic majesty and pure metal that through the eyes and heart of The Dark transcends to a unique soundscape of dark heavy metal.

2. ETERNAL CHAMPION - The Armor Of Ire
Hammers, balls, guts and epic metal. One of the underground metal highlights of 2016 inspired by the Legends.

3. SUMERLANDS - Sumerlands
Genuine 80s metal worship and Phil Swanson on mic. Catchy, inspired, riff-driven and passionate, this is the kind of heavy metal we are looking (and praying) for, in the years to come.

4. FATES WARNING - Theories Of Flight
A great album by an old 80s established band. This is not something you see very often but Fates is not an ordinary band. 'Theories Of Flight' is the band's best album since 'A Pleasant SHade Of Gray' and it is filled with melody, their "regular" top notch songwriting, the best Ray Alder since ages and the heavy presence of Bobby Jarzombek. 

5. TAROT - Reflections
Do you miss Pagan Altar? 'Reflections' is the first full-length album of Tarot from Australia, after 'The Warrior's Spell', that was actually a compilation of the band's EPs. Nostalgic and beautiful, 'Reflections' is made of dreams, eerie landscapes and poetry, transformed in pure artistic music.

6. ASSASSIN'S BLADE - Agents Of Mystification
Another great debut album for 2016. A Swedish mob join forces with singer Jacques Belanger (ex-Exciter) and deliver us a pure metal offering inspired by Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate, Manilla Road and the spirit of Heavy Metal.

7. KHEMMIS - Hunted
Just a year after their debut full-length album ('Absolution'), the doomsters from Denver, Colorado, return with the perfect follow-up keeping their momentum strong. Once again, a great cover catches your eye before you even listen to the five songs herein. 'Hunted' is dominated by melody, the emotional vocal performance and along with gigantic riffs and the menhir-solid rhythm section it is irritant bizarre and defies the borders of traditional doom metal. 

8. THE TEMPLE - Forevermourn
Doom metal is perhaps the hardest sub-genre of our precious music sphere to get right. It really needs spirit and true passion to achieve the right result. All the songs on 'Forevermourn' seem to be forged and conceived from sorrow, regret and struggle, inspired by bands like Solstice, Warning and Isole. This is true doom metal indeed and so few new bands can truly claim that heavy crown.

9. SPELLCASTER - Night Hides The World
These guys, from Oregon, USA, have a great evolution and you won’t believe how good their third (and best so far) album is. 'Night Hides The World' is diverse and full of catchy, feel-good melodies. It might bring you in mind to a few of the (real) greats in metal, from bits of the Alder-era Fates Warning to Queensryche and Iron Maiden.

10. SACRED STEEL - Heavy Metal Sacrifice
Well, if you want to experience Heavy Metal in its purest form, you can't go wrong with Sacred Steel. Every time I listen an album by this German metal armada, I pray to transferred in their live shows at once.


Top 5 + 1 EPs / singles

1. SOLSTICE - To Sol A Thane
Loud uncompromised epic metal. Not for cunts.

2. WATCHTOWER - Concepts Of Math: Book One
Decades in the making, the line-up of 'Control And Resistance' cannot fail.

The Doomfather (Leif Edling) with Niklas Stalvind (Wolf) on vocals, deliver us 4 tracks from the Sabbath catacombs. 

4. ASCALON - Reflections
UK vigilantes and probably the best newcomers of the so called "new wave of traditional heavy metal"

5. MAUSOLEUM GATE - Metal And The Might
A unique blend of 70s sounds, obscure metal and personality.

Available only during their first live shows of the final tour, this is a special edition that contains 4 new studio tracks and 4 live recordings. Those 4 new tracks are in the usual Sabbath standards. Meaning, best of the best.

2016 was a great year for metal music. After many many years, QUICKSAND DREAM released their second album 'Beheading Tyrants' and that was a really nice surprise for 2016! Doomy epic metal with beautiful melodies and a great aura surrounding the songs. Portoguese metal warriors RAVENSIRE released their best effort yet, 'The Cycle Never Ends', in the beginning of 2016 and this is what you need before the battle in order to destroy your enemies and drink blood from their skulls.

DANG 'Monstrum Ex Machina' is the absolute outsider of 2016. A great multi dimensional album with 70s rock and prog elements, doom metal, heavy atmosphere and monsters from the underworld. Completely "outside of the box" is also the latest artistic creation of ZEMIAL 'The Repairer Of Reputations' that is available only digital at the moment, but you need to check it yourself.

Two classic US power metal acts had a killer comeback. HELSTAR with 'Vampiro' and METAL CHURCH with 'XI'. The latest album of METAL CHURCH was marked by the return of vocalist Mike Howe and even if few of the previous albums with Ronny Munroe on vocals were really good, it seems that this album was what fans wanted. On the other hand, the latest HELSTAR albums were not really good and had a more aggressive edge, that wasn't welcome by many of their fans, but 'Vampiro' is their best effort since their golden years in the 80s.

From older bands, the line-up change in German power metal legends RAGE was a relief for captain Peavey and 'The Devil Strikes Again' was indeed a strike we were looking for, from this great band. However, the real captain Rock n' Rolf returned with RUNNING WILD and 'Rapid Foray', and even if there are some strongs ideas and songs in the album, he really needs to consider again the band's line-up. I think that a call to Jorg Michael (drums) will be something that fans will really appreciate.

New (or close to "new") bands had also their share in 2016 with cool and enjoyable albums like MONUMENT ('Hair Of The Dog'), DEXTER WARD ('Rendezvous With Destiny'), HIGH SPIRITS ('Motivator') BLAZON STONE ('War Of The Roses'), HITTEN ('State Of Shock'), MONASTERIUM ('Monasterium') and WYTCH HAZEL ('Prelude') but few other not so new bands like SPIRITUS MORTIS ('The Year Is One') and WIDOW ('Carved In Stone') were nearly to the very best.

Besides what I really liked in 2016, there were many more albums and bands that must be mentioned if you want to have a right and correct retrospect, but this is not the point here. However, it is always important for the metal universe when a brand name like METALLICA or MEGADETH has a new album out there, but let's keep this for other sites.

What should we expect in 2017? A new album from the other few brand names is needed. Let's say that in my dreams I am expecting an album from OZZY in the vein of 'Bark At The Moon' and 'The Ultimate Sin' but let's stay on earth, where we are waiting for new albums from HEIR APPARENT, SOLSTICE, PAINFUL PRIDE and SAXON.

News are expected on the MANILLA ROAD family, too. Three albums are ready and scheduled for release during 2017. The new MANILLA ROAD album, the new HELLWELL album where Mark Shelton is working again with Randy 'Thrasher' Foxe on drums, and also a project where Mark Shelton is working with Rick Fisher on drums.

While BLACK SABBATH is coming to an end, Tony Iommi will probably compose music easier and according to some rumors he will might write few songs with Tony Martin that probably will be part in the future (?) reissues of albums like 'Headless Cross' and 'Tyr'. Meanwhile, since he already wrote a song like 'How Good It Is', we are expecting more surprises.

Have a great, healthy and lucky 2017.